Congress approved a stopgap spending bill on Thursday that will allow the Bush administration to dip deeply into a $70 billion fund for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert Gates this week asked lawmakers for $190 billion to fund the wars for the next year—up $42.3 billion from the original request. Gates urged Congress to approve the money quickly, but Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd said lawmakers would not “rubber stamp” the funding.
“If, as he says, President Bush is going to start withdrawing troops from Iraq,” said The New York Times in an editorial (free registration), “why on earth does he need vastly more money from Congress to wage war?” Bush looks ready to make this sad adventure “endless,” and feed his “voracious war machine” at the expense of “other national priorities that are being ignored or shortchanged.”
This is no time to shortchange the war effort, said Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post (free registration). Bush’s approach in Iraq is finally winning support. France has “flipped,” and joined in the push to rein in Iraq’s dangerous neighbor, Iran. Even Democrats have had to admit that Bush’s counterinsurgency strategy has produced improvement on the ground. “A few months ago, the question was: Will the Democratic Congress force a withdrawal from Iraq? Today the question in Congress is: What can be done to achieve success in Iraq—most specifically, by countering Iran, which is intent on seeing us fail?”
Anyone who thinks the U.S. is squandering time and money in this war should consider the new security agreement between Iraq and Turkey, said Edward Morrissey in his Captain’s Quarters blog. For the first time, these neighbors have agreed to cooperate to “fight terrorism on both sides of their border.” It’s a clear sign of progress for the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and one more indication “of the political realignment taking shape in Iraq, thanks to the surge.”
The Democratic presidential candidates appear to have swigged the same “Kool-Aid,” said Eugene Robinson, also in The Washington Post. Not one of the top three contenders for the party’s nomination—senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, and former senator John Edwards—would pledge at this week’s debate to bringing all combat troops home by the end of his or her first term. “The Republican candidates' view of Iraq, Iran and the Middle East is dangerously apocalyptic,” but the Democrats don’t appear to have any vision at all.
One way to cut costs in Iraq is to get rid of Blackwater USA, the private security contractor whose guards killed 11 Iraqis while protecting American diplomats, said The Dallas Morning-News in an editorial. Blackwater’s doctrine—“shoot first, make friends later—is “undermining” our counterinsurgency plan, which is “one of restraint and winning allies.”
Even Machiavelli said relying on mercenaries was “useless and dangerous,” said Paul Krugman in The New York Times (free registration). Instead of pushing privatization everywhere, including on the battlefield, the Bush administration should make “hard political choices” and decide how many soldiers it really needs to do what it wants done in Iraq.